Family Reunification of TCNs in Belgium and the EU: national practices (EMN)

Today, the Belgian Contact Point of the European Migration Network published a new national report on Family Reunification of Third Country Nationals in Belgium. The report served as the Belgian contribution to an EU Synthesis report on the subject, which compares national policies and practices on the subject in 25 EU Member States and Norway.


As one of the main avenues for legal migration to the EU, family reunification accounts for approximately a third of all arrivals of Third-Country Nationals (TCNs) in the EU. The vast majority of the first permits for family reasons granted to TCNs in 2015 were issued by Germany, Italy, Spain, France, UK, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands altogether.

Belgian Report

The Belgian report on the topic contains statistics, brings forward important legal changes since 2011, and gives an overview of the persons eligible for family reunification, as well as the requirements and the procedure for non-EU sponsors in Belgium who aim to reunite with family members.

In 2016, 26.325 third country nationals received a first residence permit for family reasons. Morocco and Turkey were traditionally the highest TCN-beneficiaries of first residence permits for family reasons in Belgium. However, after the legal reform in 2011 a drop was observed in the number of family migrants of these nationalities. Athough Morrocco remains in 2016 the number one nationality among the non-EU beneficiaries of family reunification (more then 3700 first residence permits for family reasons), Syria becomes second. A tenfold increase can be observed in the number of Syrian family members reuniting with a sponser in Belgium since 2013: from around two hundred in 2013 to over two thousand in 2016.

Out of the total of 26.325 first residence permits issued to TCN, 16.067 joined a sponsor who is himself/herself a TCN: this concerned mostly children (12.392), but also 3.635 spouses or partners joined and 40 other family members. It is important to point out that part of the first residence permits for family reasons do not relate to migration in the strict sense of the word, since children born in Belgium from foreign nationals (legally residing in Belgium) also receive a first residence permit for family reasons.

Several legal changes were made in recent years in Belgium, mostly restricting the right to family reunification. Among others, in 2011 an income requirement was introduced, the fight against marriages and partnerships of convenience was stepped up and today the fight against false declarations of parenthood is the political agenda. Also an obligatory financial retribution (fee) was introduced when applying for family reunification, as well as an integration requirement at the renewal of a temporary permit. Moreover, the period to control the fulfillment of all conditions for family reunification was extended to five years, and the maximum processing times for an application were lengthened from six to nine months (with possible extensions).

EU comparative study

The EMN Study aims to compare national policies and/ or practices on family reunification between the 25 EU Member States plus Norway, and to provide up-to-date information on the latest developments in this area of legal migration to Europe since 2011 onwards. The Study further aims to provide data on the scale of family reunification at present, as well as over time (2011-2015 and 2016 where available), supplementing available Eurostat data with national statistics where available.

This Synthesis Report was prepared on the basis of National Contributions from 26 EMN NCPs (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway), according to a Common Template developed by the EMN and followed by EMN NCPs to ensure, to the extent possible, comparability.

EMN Studies

Every year the EMN produces on specific topics in the field of immigration and asylum relevant to policy development at Belgian and EU level. For each of these topics, all EU Member States deliver a national report, which is subsequently analyzed in a comparative synthesis report at EU level.

Publication Date:
Thu 20 Jul 2017
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